By Rex Hammock

The current blow to some digital marketing core beliefs caused by the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data breach is providing a much-needed moment of reflection on the reality vs. perception of a long list of digital marketing buzzwords like big data, adtech, SEO, retargeting, social-anything and dozens more.

I was around when digital marketing wasn’t yet on the web. Hammock was fortunate enough to develop early interactive projects for clients such as (then called) Northern Telecom that resided on laser discs. We even managed a pre-internet online community of small business owners on a dial-up service called Compuserve.

I am still a true believer in the power of technology and networks to create relationships between customer and seller, cause and supporter, individual and community.

However, it’s easy to see that something has gone wrong. Rather than viewing this amazing technology as a means to develop new marketplaces, relationships and communities, marketers have allowed themselves to be convinced that “adtech” is just a better way to target people, aggregate eyeballs, bid on impressions, improve SEO, etc.

Somewhere along the way, many marketers have lost sight of their mission, their company’s North Star. They have replaced it with a belief that clicks are the same thing as meaningful and engaging relationships. They’ve lost sight of goals that matter, like serving customers, and have replaced them with goals like views or impressions.

Unless marketers recapture an understanding of marketing that centers on people and not manipulative technology and intrusive tactics, we will lose the customers we claim to serve. We will look up one day and discover we’re all experiencing our own version of what Facebook is going through today.

Customers are people, not merely data you can scrap. Forget that, and you’ll turn one of history’s greatest marketing gifts into nothing more than really bad spam.


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